Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Memoranda

Supplementary Memorandum by Dr Tony Walter—Letter to the Rt Hon Paul Boateng MP (CEM 45(a))

  I heard your evidence given to the Sub-committee on cemeteries on 23 January, and understood your concern about your own, and potentially other people's, sensitivities over the matter of re-use.

  In the evidence I gave to the committee two weeks earlier, I outlined and recommended the system in use throughout the rest of Europe. Graves are leased for relatively short periods (eight years is the shortest I know of, 50 the longest), and lessees are notified a year before the lease is up, asking if they wish to renew. They may renew as often as they like. If they want to pay for a perpetual grave, they may also do this. In this kind of system,

    —  There is never any question of graves being re-used without a family's permission

    —  Families understand it is their responsibility to renew the lease, should they wish to.

  The problems with the longer lease periods (50-75 years) proposed by some in the UK cemetery industry are that

    —  Families may not be contactable after this period. Some years after the grave has been re-used, a distant family member may turn up looking for the grave and find it no more.

    —  After many decades of silence from the burial authority, families may not realise they will eventually need to renew the lease—the "culture" of renewing grave leases will not get established.

  This is why I strongly recommend that the Committee, and the Home Office, look seriously at the continental framework for re-use. Millions of Europeans are no less sensitive than the British. They just have a system that works!

February 2001

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